Back then, Bob Condotta was a young reporter working for the now-defunct Bellevue Journal-American.

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As the years have passed, each one seeming to bring another season of disappointment indistinguishable from the rest, the banner commemorating 1995 has almost begun to feel like a weight hanging over Safeco Field.

It’s a banner that to some might now feels more like a symbol of what the Mariners almost once were but never have been — and given recent events, seem far away from becoming.

“Really?’’ some newcomers to the city undoubtedly say upon taking in Safeco Field for the first time. “They have banners for teams that didn’t even reach the World Series?’’

To those, I’d say, you don’t know what you missed.

Jaded memories?

The other banners that hang over Safeco — the 1997 team whose playoff hopes came and went in about 18 hours, and the 2001 team for whom the ending will always spoil the history that came before it — do indeed feel tinged with a disappointment that will never go away.

But to me and anyone else who was lucky enough to have been there, the banner for the 1995 season represents simply the greatest ride a baseball team could have given a city, even if it ended too soon.

It also was just incredibly fun.

I was a much younger reporter then, working for the now-defunct (sadly) Bellevue Journal-American. I wasn’t really assigned to cover the Mariners when the year began. But as the season progressed and things that couldn’t be ignored kept happening at the Kingdome, I ended up spending more time there, eventually assigned to it full time in late September.

That’s about the same time many others decided to buy in fully, as well. Indeed, what might be even more difficult to remember is just how bleak everything seemed at the beginning.

There had been no World Series in 1994, and a weird replacement-player spring training before the strike was settled. And then there was the situation in Seattle, with ownership demanding a new stadium or else. I remember covering an early-season game and Ken Griffey Jr. smashing a ball over the fence in batting practice and saying something to the effect of “I hit that one all the way to Tampa’’ — a joking reference to the city where many assumed the Mariners would be playing as soon as 1996.

With a team that had had just two winning seasons since 1977 appearing on the way out and baseball in the mess it was, it was almost surprising that 34,641 turned out for the season opener.

As a lifelong resident of the state, I remember thinking how unfair it was that baseball was likely to leave Seattle for a second time without the city really getting a chance to experience what baseball was all about.

When Griffey broke his wrist May 26, the obits on baseball in Seattle were being rushed to print.

But before the Mariners could Refuse to Lose, they refused to die, staying alive through June, July and early August before Griffey returned, carried by Randy Johnson’s pitching and the hitting of Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and crew.

Management helped win some skeptics back by trading for Andy Benes and Vince Coleman and signing Norm Charlton.

Griffey hit a walkoff homer against the Yankees on Aug. 24, and suddenly it just felt different. The Angels helped, inexplicably going on two nine-game losing streaks, helping the Mariners go from 12½ games back Aug. 15 — the day Griffey returned — to three up Sept. 26 (that the Angels won their last five and the Mariners lost their last three to force a one-game playoff almost makes it that much better now).

I recently talked to Benes, who spent roughly three months with the Mariners — 12 regular-season starts and two in the postseason — and who later played on playoff teams in St. Louis, where he still does some broadcasting.

Benes started Game 5 of the Division Series against the Yankees. Other than his first major-league start, he said it’s the only time he struggled to catch his breath on the mound.

“Just the electricity in that stadium and around the city was something that, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that much excitement,’’ Benes said. “Even living in St. Louis, and they are used to having a lot of playoff and World Series games. When you go through it as a city for the first time, there is something really special.’’

Ultimately, it was the fans who also Refuse to Lose that season — baseball itself, that is — turning the Kingdome from mausoleum to madhouse, compelling those in charge to keep the Mariners around.

Though much of what has followed has been dreary, it’s better than not having a team.

For that, they can’t make a banner large enough.